MONDAY, Mar. 8, 2010 — Nancy Kavanaugh

THEME: RIFLES (48D: Weapons in which you can find the starts of 17-, 31-, 46- and 62-Across) — theme answers all start with RIFLE parts

Tied for the fastest puzzle I've done this year, though I had to disqualify it because I later noticed a typo (one of the perils of solving a. quickly, and b. on-screen). 78 words in this one — the maximum for a daily 15x15 puzzle — which results in a surfeit (!) of short fill (not usually good), but this grid makes up for it with a lot of 6- and 7-letter stuff, all of it solid. I like the theme on this one — very strong and interesting, as "first words"- (or "last words"-) type themes go. A little weirdness. While HAMMER is certainly a part of a RIFLE, so is LOCK (the LOCK is the firing mechanism on a gun, most familiar to non-gun-users from the phrase LOCK, stock and BARREL — which makes me wonder here STOCK is ...). So the parts seem arbitrary and the extra, unaccounted-for part (LOCK) is a bit distracting, but it's still an original concept. LOCK, STOCK, and BARREL has undoubtedly been done before (as a theme), now that I think about it. Let me check. Oh look, I'm right. In fact, such a puzzle was in the LAT just last year, and *I* blogged it. Huh. Curious. Well, there's one reason not to use STOCK. Shoulda ditched LOCK. Other possibilities. HAMMER TOSS, HAMMER DOWN (trucker-speak!), or, my personal favorite: HAMMER TIME.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Hotel room cleaner (CHAMBER MAID)
  • 31A: Arm-twisting move (HAMMER LOCK)
  • 46A: Rodeo event with obstacles (BARREL RACE)
  • 62A: Without prior inspection (SIGHT UNSEEN)

Crosswordese 101: GAR (19A: Long-snouted fish) — how have we not covered this guy yet? He is the undisputed king of ichthyological crossword answers. OK, EEL is king, but that dude is overexposed. GAR is old-skool and kind of elegant. EEL doesn't know when to give it a rest, and hence is wicked annoying. GAR is J.D. Salinger to EEL's Stephenie Meyer. And OPAH ... well, god knows what OPAH is.

I cringed upon starting this puzzle when my first two answers were USO and UPCS ("Let me guess ... the theme is All Abbrevs.!"). I have sympathy for the constructor who needs a little bad fill to get by, and at least has the decency to shove it in a corner. But here, that corner could have been rewritten a million ways with *no* abbreviations. I'd have been happy with just one. Come on. Please take care of your little corners! They deserve the love and attention to detail. One of the things I liked about the puzzle was the way the mid-range fill (all pretty good) compensated for the onslaught of short stuff. Two 7s up top, another two below, one in NE and SW corners, respectively, and another two PLUS two 8s sandwiched in the middle there. Good stuff. That, and the openish NE and SW corners give the grid some level of interest beyond the theme.

OK, that's all.

See you Friday,

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

Everything Else — 1A: Support gp. for the troops (USO); 4A: Words of deliberation (LET'S SEE); 11A: Audience for 1-Across (GIS); 14A: Mom's business partner (POP); 15A: Concisely put (IN A WORD); 16A: Hairy Addams Family cousin (ITT); 17A: Hotel room cleaner (CHAMBERMAID); 19A: Long-snouted fish (GAR); 20A: "Green" energy type (SOLAR); 21A: Opening for a peeping Tom (KEYHOLE); 23A: Manage, barely (GET BY); 27A: Pelvic bones (ILIA); 28A: Painter of melting watches (DALI); 31A: Arm-twisting wrestling hold (HAMMERLOCK); 35A: 56-Down, biologically (OVA); 36A: Jumped the tracks (DERAILED); 37A: Electric car's lack (GAS TANK); 39A: Threatened (MENACED); 43A: Like glue (ADHESIVE); 45A: Tire layer (PLY); 46A: Rodeo event with obstacles (BARREL RACE); 49A: Really bugs (IRKS); 50A: "__ ain't broke ..." (IF IT); 51A: "Hardball" airer (MSNBC); 53A: Gridiron five-yard penalty (OFFSIDE); 57A: "You __ to know!" (OUGHT); 61A: Nothing at all (NIL); 62A: Without prior inspection (SIGHT UNSEEN); 66A: Ill temper (IRE); 67A: Vigilant against attack (ON GUARD); 68A: Greenwich Village sch. (NYU); 69A: Divs. on some rulers (CMS); 70A: Attaches securely (FASTENS); 71A: Guinness suffix (-EST); 1D: Lines on mdse. (UPCS); 2D: Arty Big Apple area (SOHO); 3D: October birthstone (OPAL); 4D: Cuba __: rum drink (LIBRE); 5D: Opposite of WSW (ENE); 6D: Road sealer (TAR); 7D: Certain bachelor, in ads (SWM); 8D: Relax in the tub (SOAK); 9D: New York canal (ERIE); 10D: Whirling water (EDDY); 11D: Paid male escort (GIGOLO); 12D: Slanted type (ITALIC); 13D: 10 consecutive wins, say (STREAK); 18D: Nativity trio (MAGI); 22D: Broom-__: comics witch (HILDA); 24D: Stanley Cup org. (THE NHL); 25D: Carnival pitchman (BARKER); 26D: Singer Sumac (YMA); 28D: Boxer or pug (DOG); 29D: Gardner of "On the Beach" (AVA); 30D: "Deck the Halls" syllables (LAS); 32D: Tries to act like (MIMICS); 33D: Late news hour (ELEVEN); 34D: Descartes or Russo (RENE); 36D: Florida's Miami-__ County (DADE); 38D: Queen of Hearts' pastries (TARTS); 40D: EMT's skill (CPR); 41D: Yellowstone grazer (ELK); 42D: Prefix with functional (DYS-); 44D: Walton of Walmart (SAM); 46D: Like the Six Million Dollar Man (BIONIC); 47D: Declare true (AFFIRM); 48D: Weapons in which you can find the starts of 17-, 31-, 46- and 62-Across (RIFLES); 49D: Closely monitored hosp. areas (ICUS); 52D: Slugger Barry (BONDS); 54D: "Time __ the essence" (IS OF); 55D: Actress Merrill (DINA); 56D: Incubator items (EGGS); 58D: Hereditary unit (GENE); 59D: Casual greetings (HEYS); 60D: Letter-shaped fastener (T-NUT); 63D: "Survivor" shelter (HUT); 64D: __ kwon do (TAE); 65D: Java vessel (URN).



Not a puzzle that excites me!
I guess, because there’s too much trite stuff, too many ugly fill-in-the-blank words (like IF IT, IS OF, etc), and sloppy clues (like 18D). We now know that the MAGI were NOT present at the nativity, despite what we see on our Christmas cards. They visited Jesus when he was about 2 years old and there is no evidence of a “trio”.
And what can be more ugly in a CW, than seeing “THE” plopped in front of an abbreviation (THENHL)… this is just plain wrong!
Also, I’m not a big proponent of weaponry, so the theme didn’t excite me either.

Well we’ve sure seen enough of cousin ITT in crosswords, so it’s time we expose this ubiquitous little furry critter---

Then there’s those bizarre DALI clocks… another overused word.

Then, if that isn’t enough, we get far too much SOHO. Is that a place in NYC, or London, or ???
But we can’t get too much of the SOHO Dolls music!!!

The clue for 33D is too regionally sensitive. We in Chicago get our late night news at ten o’clock, not at ELEVEN.

I refuse to comment on the DYSfunctional Barry BONDS, lest it evoke my IRE.

Okay, now that I’ve said what IRKS me, let me give praise to a few good words:
HAMMER LOCK, BIONIC, Broom HILDA, BARKER (even though I put in CARNIE), KEYHOLE, and Cuba LIBRE.

Okay, what the heck is EST (Guinness suffix)? Oh okay, I get it. Not the ale, but “The Guinness Book of Records”… the biggEST, the fastEST, the richEST, etc.
Stanley Newman is a well-known puzzle constructor and editor. As a puzzle solver, he holds the world's record, set in 1996 under Guinness Book conditions, for the fastEST completion of a NYT crossword: 2 minutes, 14 seconds. Hey REX, how about besting Stan’s record?

IN A WORD, how did I like this puzzle? UGH!!!

Time to fill that coffee URN and start fixing breakfast. Hmm, how about some poached EGGS on ham and English muffins?

xyz said...

A little simplistic side, a notch or two easier than the NYT today which I did first.

I can't say there was anything bad except I agree 1A & 1 D was a weak start.

Orange said...

Tyler Hinman and Dan Feyer have both topped Stan's record. They just haven't sought to get listed by Guinness. And that's on paper—when they're solving online, Tyler and Dan are much faster. Tyler did a recent Monday NYT puzzle online in 1 minute, 25 seconds. He's done a Monday Newsday online in 1:10.

Dan is even faster than Tyler these days. Before the ACPT, he routinely posted sub-2:14 times on paper for numerous puzzles. For example, on February 15, his NYT, LAT, CrosSynergy, and Newsday times ranged from 2:05 to 2:11.

lit.doc said...

Fastest Monday NYT ever, even factoring in my dylsexic keying. I laud Rex for finding interesting stuff to say about it, as well as for posting the nice pic of Ms. Garr, one of my major unrequited loves.

Best I can do is say that, despite having spent a few years in a dojo, I still always misspell TAI KWON DO for about a second and a half, and that I'm reminded again how hard it must be to construct an easy and yet interesting puzzle.

Rex Parker said...

This isn't the NYT. You mean LAT. Fastest LAT ever. I think.

Zeke said...

Yeah, they're fast, but in doing so don't they miss out on the chance to revel in the artistic beauty of, e.g., AVA nestled between DOG and LAS?


Well, maybe I can apply for the Guinness Record of the fastest solve of a Monday LAT puzzle at 3:00 AM (and before coffee).

I'm your rival in vieing for Teri Garr's affections. I was so saddened to hear about her Multiple Sclerosis.

I too cringed when I saw the USO/UPCS crossing in the NW corner. Somehow I think that corner should set the tone for the entire puzzle. Maybe that's why subconsciously I came to dislike this puzzle as a whole.

Sfingi said...

Easy, yes.

Just a GIGOLO, everywhere I go, people know the part I'm playing.
(Schoener Gigolo, armer Gigolo, 1929)
Louis Prima's epitaph

If I could have got a readable picture of the whole gravestone, you would see the angel tootin its horn.

@John - for those who are and are not Biblical scholars, how would you word your MAGI clue? I liked the Addams film showing ITT. Why is there a wolfman in the DALI?

I had to ask Hubster for OFFSIDE, but do know enough about guns to know the basic parts, since my POP fixed 'em on the side (along with tube (tubal?) tvs).

A little too many initials: ENE, USO, GIS, ICUS, CMS, CPR, NYU, MSNBC, but did like the original SIGHTUNSEEN, MENACED. Liked seeing GETBY rather than any form of eke. THENHL was totally yuk, esp. with the article, THE.

The importation of TAE kwon do was an eternal gift to crosswordese.

Rex Parker said...

Thomas Alva Edison would like to say, re: TAE: "Imports? We don't need no stinking imports."

Tinbeni said...

I feel pretty good if I locate the puzzle, extract if from my newspaper, fold it neatly and attach it to my clipboard, pour a mug of Java and turn on the TV in 3 minutes. Then I like to slow down.

@JNH & @ Sfingi covered my HOOLIGAN complaints. Wanted Hawker for BARKER before I commited my entry IN INK.

@Lit.Doc - Same here on the Tai/TAE. Did the same thing on Dis/DYS. Easy fixes.

Always laughed that adding a LIME to a Rum & Coke demands the title Cuba LIBRE. Damn, that must be one special garnish.

@Rex The movie Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is the only movie I ever saw that had subtitles ... during an exclamation in ENGLISH!!!

I disagree re: your comment on imports.
All Scotch is imported.

Sandy said...

@Zeke: No, I don't think they do miss out. Everyone does the puzzle the way they like the best, and that's the way they like to do it.

lit.doc said...

@Rex, uh, yeah, LAT indeed. Good eye. Trying to post inbetween herding cats. Spring break cannot get here soon enow. :)

Zeke said...

@Sandy - I was wondering if I needed my [sarcasm] [/sarcasm] modifiers there. I'm pretty much convinced that the ability to do these at what seems to me to be super-human speed lies in seeing the puzzle as a whole, or at least in large chunks, rather than seeing individual answers and filling them in. I'm sure this also results in a greater sensitivity to the details of construction, for better or worse. Which is why we have our hosts doing this, rather than myself.

Tuttle said...

I wish there was a better video for The Crusher... Do the hammerlock you turkey-necks!

mac said...

Nice Monday puzzle, especially "sight unseen" and "in a word", always like those sort of expressions. Queen of Hearts' pastries? what is that about?

Alice said...

@Mac - Regents here in Wonderland have specific tastes.
I dould have been less cryptic, but my catpcha is ouslyper - Oh you sly person

Sandy said...

@Zeke. Ah, ok. I see where you're coming from now. I seem to remember conversations about this kind of thing over at some of the NYT puzzle blogs. There must be brain research on this out there somewhere. It is kind of fascinating.

Zeke said...

@Sandy - Where I was really coming from was that some of the nooks and crannies were so damned ugly I hoped someone missed them. The rest was fast=not paying attention sarcasm.

Joon said...

according to dan's blog, his record for a monday puzzle on paper is 1:49. his best time in the NYT applet is 1:22. both of these are quite a bit faster than most people can fill in a grid even if they are not looking at the clues.

i didn't find today's LAT all that easy; it took me 20 seconds longer than the NYT, for example. part of that is i couldn't work out LET'S SEE or IN A WORD from their first letters, so i had to go with the crosses. it's always faster to solve the long answers and check with the short ones than the other way around.